During an event with constituents over the weekend, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) elicited laughter after she claimed, without a tinge of irony, that President Trump is simply “standing up” for Norway — the predominately white country from which he told lawmakers last week he wants to welcome more immigrants, as opposed to people from “shithole” African nations.
According to a local TV report, Ernst was confronted by a constituent named Barb Melson about “the damage that Trump is doing to our neighbors around the world with his white supremacy talk.” Ernst responded by defending Trump, saying, “He is standing up for a lot of countries.” A constituent then asked Ernst to “name a few.”
“You bet, Norway is one of them,” Ernst replied, as the crowd broke out in laughter.
In a Sarah Palin-esque twist, Ernst then suggested that Trump’s purported desire to forge closer ties with Norway could help America deal with Vladimir Putin.
“You laugh, but folks — who borders Norway? Russia!” Ernst said.
During another constituent event in Iowa over the weekend, Ernst said she doesn’t think Trump’s comment about African nations being “shithole countries” reflects any sort of racism.
“Deep inside, no, I don’t think he’s a racist,” Ernst replied, her response “drawing groans from the crowd,” according to the Des Moines Register. “I think he’s brash and he says things that are on his mind, but I don’t truly believe that he’s a racist.”
Ernst might be in denial about it, but Trump has a history of espousing racist views that spans decades. In fact, Trump’s rise to national political prominence during the Obama years was due in large part to his promotion of a racist conspiracy theory that then-President Obama was a secret Muslim who was actually born in Africa.
While Ernst dismisses Trump’s racist comments, other Republican senators are playing word games in an attempt to deny that Trump called African countries “shitholes” in the first place. Though the White House initially acknowledged that Trump did in fact use profane language to bash African nations and Haiti, Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) later told the White House they heard Trump say “shithouse” rather than “shithole.” They then used this insignificant discrepancy over the weekend to publicly argue that media accounts of what Trump said in the meeting were inaccurate.